Within the lifetime of George Hodson/Hodgin, a Southern sensibility takes shape within the North Carolina Quaker culture even as it bears the tensions of maintaining its unique witness in opposition to a slave-holding society. We find the traditional naming patterns breaking down, and among the boys, at least, popular names begin to include Calvin, Luther, and Wesley – drawn from other Protestant traditions.
We may ask, too, whether his wife’s given name, Delilah, expressed a defiance to her situation at birth. Conflicting information regarding her early years, moreover, creates alternative scenarios that need resolution. What we do know is that if the reported marriage date is correct, George married an older woman after the birth of her first child.
Spousal lines: Rayle or Hunt, Britton/Britain, or possibly Edwards and Stanton.
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George Hodson was born January 2, 1797, Guilford County, the son of William and Diannah (Saferight) Hodson/Hodgin. He married, January 1818, Delilah Britton (the surname is often reported as Rayle or Hunt) (October 10, 1784 or 1794-November 21, 1883). He died November 4, 1878, Guilford County, and is buried with his wife at the Centre Friends burial ground. Perhaps eleven children, one of them born previous to George and Delilah’s marriage:
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- Absalom Hodgin, born March 21, 1817, Guilford County; died November 29, 1888, Guilford County; married, December 31, 1840, Paulina or Pauline Clark (October 15, 1817-January 15, 1902). They are buried at Rehoboth Methodist, near the source of Polecat Creek. Eight children. His birth date, ten months before the reported marriage of George and Delilah, leads me to believe that Absalom is her child by a previous marriage or relationship with Absalom Hunt. His first name appears in many variations, though I use the Biblical spelling here.
- Eula Ruth, born Twelfth Month 17, 1818, Guilford County; died Seventh Month 12, 1887, Guilford County; first married George Hodgin ( – ), and they had one son. She married second, on October 11 or 22, 1854, Francis Simpson Davis (1831-1922), a dozen years her junior according to their gravestones, and they had three children. She and her second husband are buried at Centre Friends. In the 1860 Guilford Census, he is listed as Francis S. Davis and their age difference is seven years; on his gravestone, he is Simpson. In both instances she goes by Ruth. Could “Eula” be a variation of Beulah, a Hunt family name – as is Ruth? Ruth, however, is the name of Delilah’s reported mother, Ruth Britton.
- Jamima, born April 27, 1821, Guilford County; died July 2, 1903, Guilford County; married, September 9, 1844, or May 7, 1846, Samuel S. Davis (June 24, 1821-June 30, 1913). They are buried at Centre Friends. Four children in the 1860 Guilford Census.
- George Washington Hodgson, born May 4, 1823, Guilford County; died May 8, 1872; married, June 7, 1846, Nancy L. Irvin (1823- ). Six children. He may have been known as Washington Hodgin. He and Nancy are reported in the 1850 Census for Guilford County, but not in 1860; so far, I find him principally in Clay Hodgin’s table of George and Delilah’s children.
- Diana (Dianah), born 1824, Guilford County; died ( ), Guilford County; married, May 7 or 17, 1846, Wade Hampton Newman ( – ). Four children. They are not listed in the 1860 Guilford Census, although John K. Hodgin reports that she is buried in Guilford County.
- William, born 1825. Guilford County; died 1910, buried at Concord Friends. Although Clay Hodgin reports that William not marry, John K. Hodgin names Rachel Winters (November 11, 1824-August 6, 1894) as the wife, an account that fits the 1850 Guilford Census, which records a William Hodgson, 25, farmer, and wife Rachel, also 25, with children George, 4, Sophronia, 1/12, and N. Yancy (Nancy?), 3. They appear in the 1860 Guilford Census, with the additions of Alphonso, 8, and Anna, 2. Buried at Concord Friends; a link from the Concord Web page on http://www.findagrave.com listing of interments says, “William Hodson was the son of Delilah Britton and George Hodson. He married Rachel Winters on 22 Feb. 1844 and they had at least five children. William was a long time widower at his death.” Delilah’s surname is supported by William’s death certificate, with the information attested by J.H. Davis of Greensboro.
- Pleasant, born February 7, 1827, Guilford County; died May 20, 1908, Guilford County; married Eunice OSBAN (May 1, 1834-September 27, 1910), daughter of Elisha and Nancy (Mendenhall?) OZBUN. They are buried at Concord Friends. Four children.
- Henry “Hooter,” born March 13, 1829, Guilford County; died February 24, 1889, Guilford County; married Rachel S. (November 12, 1833-March 31, 1915). They are buried at Centre Friends. Eight children. In the 1860 Census they are dwelling four households away from his Uncle Henry Hodgin, the miller.
- Rachel Emmiline, born February 15, 1831, Guilford County; died 1905, Fillmore County, Minnesota; married William R. Reynolds (December 13, 1827, Grayson County, Virginia; March 8, 1905, presumably Fillmore County, Minnesota). Children.
- Stephen Parker Hodgin, born November 2, 1834, Guilford County; died May 14, 1907; first married Emeline Jenkins (1831-1859). His first wife died, and granddaughters Jane and Emeline were raised by the grandparents. He married second, March 19, 1866, Sarah Jane Dobson (June 1837-1922, in California), and they had five or six children. To him was bequeathed the “William Hodgin tract.”
- Elias or Ellis Harper, born 1836 or April 19, 1839 (gravestone), Guilford County; died December 11, 1911, and buried at Concord Friends. No mention in his father’s will when it was drawn in 1878. The only reference I find to him as such is in the 1850 Guilford Census, in George and Delilah’s household. There is, however, an obituary for Gertrude Hodgin, died Twelfth Month 19, 1876, age 4 years 9 months and 3 days, the daughter of Elias M. and Rachel E., members of Chester Monthly Meeting, Indiana.
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I had doubted I would ever see these faces, the two oval portraits, though the reports of their display at a family reunion a quarter-century earlier had been part of the prompting that initiated my own genealogical research. Not knowing who they were, my cousin Floyd and his wife, Melba, had put the portraits out at a yard sale, along with those of Pleasant and Eunice Hodson. Fortunately, no one bought them, and later, looking at a photograph of his father’s household, Floyd realized what he possessed. Since then, the portraits have filtered away, apparently through his nephew’s lines, before I could obtain copies. Even so, I’ve caught glimpses of Pleasant’s portrait, in a formal snapshot at my grandparents’ wedding, which took place in the parlor of Floyd’s parents house in Dayton, Ohio. I keep wanting to tell the best man to move aside, so I can see Eunice, to no avail.
In January 2007, I was delightfully surprised when Hank Hodgin emailed copies of the portraits of George and Delilah – copies of the photographs that had been handed down through Henry “Hooter” Hodgin’s line. I had no reason to suspect there had been copies, much less that they had survived in North Carolina. These arrived as deeply appreciated treasures.
At last, my great-great-great-grandparents gaze at me. Initially, they are strangers, yet as we settle in, a familiarity surfaces. Considering that the portraits were likely made sometime after the Civil War, with the spread of photography, we have a husband and wife in their sixties or seventies – well past their prime. George, especially, looks weathered, as one might expect of a famer – one who had weathered the travails imposed by the Civil War, especially.
With Delilah, I hear my mother’s reaction, the family members wondering if she were German and remarking that you wouldn’t want to try putting something past her. The more I look, though, the more her face softens. How much of the grimness originates in her lack of teeth, and the impoverishment of war? Here is a woman who has borne eleven children, at least – as well as the likely scandal of the first – and found love and companionship with George. The more I look, the more contentment I see, and solidity. Surprisingly, it takes me a while to acknowledge she is wearing a plain dress, probably dark gray, and a Quaker covering – a soft bonnet, as well as a white shawl – something I had no reason to expect, considering that they were not officially members of the Society of Friends. It says much, though, about their practice – and why at least one of their sons would hide in the forest, rather than serve in an army, and why their grandson Joshua could go to Ohio and be welcomed into an established Quaker family. I imagine her at the wood stove or in her garden, moving about with a sense of competency. I hear Dixie Newlin’s laugh, “This is Southern cooking!” and appreciate what that means. Delilah is rounded, and probably not tall. She has a large hand, presumably placed on the other. She has known passion and, if I have pieced the evidence properly, betrayal and abandonment before she married George.
Curiously, I see something of my grandfather in her face, though in his earlier years, when he was thinner than any of us had expected, he looked more like George, at least what I’ve known as a Hodson/Hodgin appearance.
Here, when I pass the portraits around, many exclaim, “He looks like Silas!” – referring to a patriarch of Dover Friends Meeting here in New Hampshire. Of course, the more I look, the less I see of that resemblance. Still, I struggle to find the features I see in his son Pleasant, in his grandson Tom, in my father, in Arthur Hodgin, whose relationship to me is through George’s great-grandfather. There’s the shock of white hair I envy in my balding – the wavy hair Melba insisted was a Hodson characteristic and that my father had, until the U.S. Army shaved it away. George, with his sloping shoulders, wears a coat that may have no collar, a shirt with a collar but no tie, and a patterned vest – all somewhat disheveled; I cannot tell how much his dress fits Carolina Quaker custom of the time, or how much it departs, or how much is that of a farmer. His face is weathered and ruddy, and his tight-lipped expression may also reflect a lack of teeth or perhaps ill-fitting dentures. I wonder how much he resembles his grandfather and great-grandfather, as well as their struggles. His eyes are deep-set, knowing, open, and strong. There is none of the madness you see in so many portraits from the period. Delilah, on the other hand, harbors some reserve in her gaze; perhaps she is the one to ask the hard questions in their household.
I look at them together and know they wouldn’t have gone dancing. From Joshua’s reaction to Uncle Leroy’s pack of cards, I know they wouldn’t have played table games, either. They are hard-working, patient, sober, resolute.
When I return to the family portraits, I find myself searching for signs of Delilah in my aunts, uncles, and cousins. They’re apparent. The rounded, rather than thin face; the jaw; the bushy, upward eyebrows rather than George’s arched brows. Maybe some of it in Floyd’s face, for instance.
Would I have liked them? Or they, me? I think so. How unlike my Dunker ancestors they appear, or any of my mother’s lines! I feel I belong with them, more than the others. Amazing.
I return, too, to the attraction and familiarity I felt as a child when we visited log cabins on family trips. A romance, yes, but maybe there was something else, especially in southern Indiana, where so many of our kin had moved in their flight from the slave-owning Carolina culture. I try to see, as well, the blacksmith’s physique, which would have fit Pleasant’s early occupation – how thin he appears in the photo, taking after his father.
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In the 1850 Guilford Census George Hodson, age fifty-three, is a farmer whose estate is valued at $600; his wife is three years his senior. (If we are to believe her date of birth on her gravestone, she would have been thirteen years his senior.) In the 1860 Guilford Census he is still a farmer, with real estate of $900 and personal valuation of $100; here their age difference is given as thirteen years: her sixty-five to his fifty-two.
Delilah presents us with many unresolved questions. For starters, her first name – Delilah – is not one anticipated in Piedmont Quaker culture. Although she is not the only woman named Delilah in Guilford County during that period, the name expresses a woman who brought down a Jewish hero – albeit, a flawed Nazarite. Perhaps there was a recognition of a powerful Biblical woman, regardless of her partisanship, and of Samson’s own responsibility in becoming ensnared; there may also be an attraction to the musical nature of the name itself, which is not that far removed from Dinah, a popular Quaker name carried to North Carolina by the Nantucket Friends. Again, we have questions.
Even getting her first name straight involved some initial confusion in my research: a carbon paper typescript of the Centre Friends gravestones, made by the Daughters of the American Revolution, had it Dellah, and Floyd Hodson, attempting to decipher notes handed down in our family, had Delica and Delice as possibilities.
Her surname before marrying George is variously given as Rayle or Hunt. Her legal birthname, however, turns out to be Delilah Britton. The death certificate of her son, William Hodson, records that name, on information provided by J.H. Davis of Greensboro. The linkage to the Rayle surname is found in the Spring 2009 issue of The Guilford Genealogist, where an article, “Guilford County Bastardy-Related Orders and Issues Taken From the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions Minutes,” reports two cases where Matthew Rail/Rayl is named as the father, the first time in November 1794, the month after Delilah’s birth, with Ruth Britton, “a single woman,” is named as the mother, and again in May 1800, where no mother is named.
At this point, I have no knowledge of where Delilah was raised or how her mother survived. Perhaps they wound up living with Matthew Rayle, though little is known of him after the 1810 Census. It is possible Delilah went by the Rayle surname, acknowledging his paternity, or even that her mother did the same, regardless of legal status.
Matthew Rayle was raised in a Quaker family and was read out of New Garden Meeting the month before Delilah’s birth. The lawsuit over paternity came the month after her birth. The Brittons, or Brittains, were also Quaker, apparently based in Centre Meeting; details, however, are scant, as a consequence of the loss of its early records to fire. The Hunt connection has been more elusive, even though the Hunts and Rayles were closely related. My hunch is that Delilah had her first child by Absolom Hunt, who like Matthew Rayle, was read out of meeting at the time, although with some curious complications. While the Hunts were a prominent, prolific Piedmont Quaker family, the Rayles were a much smaller family at the periphery of Friends activity, and the Brittons even more so.
For all of the emphasis on marrying in accord with Quaker discipline and marrying within the faith, or in unity, Delilah represents another side of the Carolina Friends struggle, a realistic recognition of sexuality and the care of children. While neither she nor George was ever a formal member of the Society of Friends, they remained part of the community and under its care. They are, after all, buried in the meetinghouse yard.
I imagine the biggest problem in her own birth and the birth of her first child, as far as Friends were concerned, was the dishonesty on the part of men who likely made promises they never kept. While Friends have long maintained a testimony of honesty and honest dealing, there has also been an unvoiced testimony of responsibility – sober responsibility, at that. Divorce was unthinkable, as was leaving the mother of your child.
Because of their age difference, I long assumed that Delilah’s marriage to George was not her first. John K. Hodgin places their marriage in 1818, a year after Absalom’s birth.
While some sources give Delilah’s surname as Hunt, I received a letter from Betty Probst Fox of Yale, Iowa, reporting that the death certificate of Rachel (Hodson) Reynolds in Fillmore County, Minnesota, records the maiden name as Delilah Rule – a finding that led me to a futile search for possible Rule and even Ruhl connections, Quaker, Brethren (Dunker), and Mennonite. Based on the weight of the death certificate, I began leaning toward Rayle as her maiden name, and that she subsequently married a Hunt.
Complicating this, however, is the fact that the Rayles were already closely aligned with the Hunt family through two marriages, one in 1783 and the other 1792. Hunts named a son Pleasant in 1808; the name appears among the Rayles in 1811.
Whatever her origins, George and Delilah’s generation represents a break with previous traditions in several ways. In naming patterns we see middle names or initials appearing; previously, they had occurred only with George’s uncle, George Washington Hodson (son of George and Rachel Oldham Hodson), as an attempt to distinguish among the many other Georges in the family. Now, however, the practice spreads. Furthermore, we see a break between the distinctively British naming patterns. The Hodgson Borderers tradition, blending with Nantucket Biblical preferences and Philadelphia’s matrilineal/patrilineal crossings, now emerges with indications of an especially Southern sensibility: euphonious, often unique, names are chosen for children.
The Quaker culture was also beginning to shatter, partly under the pressure of maintaining a witness against their slaveholding neighbors, partly through depletion as kin continued to move away from the South, partly through an osmosis of other Protestant influences (we see Quaker children being named Calvin, Luther, and Wesley, for example), and partly through the Hicksite/Orthodox separation that had rent the Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York, and Ohio Yearly Meetings, closely followed by an Orthodox/Wilburite separation in New England and Ohio.
In addition, the Civil War and Reconstruction would exact a heavy toll on Carolina Quakers and their neighbors alike.
In the period when George and Delilah were born, as Samuel A. Purdie explains (“Quakerism in Dixie,” edited by Thomas D. Hamm, in The Southern Friend, Spring-Autumn 1999), Centre
was a large Monthly Meeting in those days, and had much to do to keep its membership, from being stained by the gross immorality which surrounded them in a land of slavery. It always tried to enforce the regulations of the Yearly Meeting on the subject of slavery, whilst the drunkenness and licentiousness which was continually making inroads upon the church, caused them to be almost constantly active in order to cleanse its garments from pollution. Almost constantly it was laboring with its delinquent members on the subject of drunkenness, while between the years 1773 and 1806 no less than 44 cases of complaints for a breach of the moral law, on the point of chastity came before the meeting. This may be a matter of surprise to those who are unacquainted with the condition of morality in the South.
Purdie, a New York Friend coming to North Carolina shortly after the Civil War, had access to some of the now-lost Centre minutes from this period. Delilah or her mother were likely among the 44 cases Purdie alludes to, and may help us better understand why we face so many obstacles in determining her ancestry.
At the time of their marriage, George is barely 21, while Delilah – already a mother and possibly an unwed mother or a widow – is 23. By Quaker standards, George, especially, is young to be marrying.
The 1860 Census (recorded as Hodgin) has George age 52 and Delilah, 65. This time, his age is in error: he would have been a decade older. His estate, valued at $1,000, is a considerable amount for the time. His residence, too, appears within a stretch of Hodgin kin, accounting for seven of the 10 households recorded by the enumerator. Two doors away is his son (or stepson) Absolom; two doors the other way is his cousin, Simeon.
George’s will, written March 19, 1878, is witnessed by Simeon’s son, David Hodgin, a noted educator and legislator; that will is probated November 23 of the same year, indicating that George may have been suffering a chronic illness such as cancer or a stroke at the time the will was drawn. Also named at the time of probate are Susana J. Hodgin, Raley E. Hodgin (identical to the Rillie Emiline Hodgin in John K. Hodgin’s list), and Stephen G. Hodgson Jr. These additions suggest some grandchildren or others not currently accounted for in our present family tree.
George’s headstone gives his death as November 4, 1878, age 81 years, 10 months, 2 days. Delilah’s gravestone reads: “Delilah, wife of George Hodson, born Oct. 10, 1784, died Nov. 21, 1883, aged 89 yrs, 1 mo & 11 da.” In a Polaroid photo sent by Betty Probst Fox, the age can be seen as 89, though it is possible to see how some might read it as 99. Subtraction indicates the birth date is in error by ten years; likewise, the 1860 Guilford Census lists her as sixty-five, which would place her birth around 1795.
Theirs are the only Hodgson/Hodson line headstones for my direct ancestors at the Centre Friends burial ground, where they rest in the midst of many Hodgin stones as well as a few other Hodsons. Although some gravestones do represent some of my related lines, especially the Ozbuns, I found standing in the yard and expecting five or more generations of my ancestors’ earthly remains to be interred there – often in unmarked graves – a deeply comforting and yet unfamiliar feeling. (I did not yet know, however, that my final generation remaining in North Carolina is buried instead at a Concord Friends Meeting just up the road, or that George Hodson, husband of Rachel Oldham, is buried instead at New Garden, reducing my lineage of Hodgsons in the Centre yard slightly.) Because so many of the plots are unmarked, and the burials are in rows of generations before as well as after those of George and Delilah, there is a timeless sense of unity: the unmarked plots express, in their own way, unresolved lines of ancestry, perhaps even families I do not yet recognize as my own. Yet, there they are, mingling in ways that reflect their interactions as neighbors, family, commonwealth, and church through successive generations.
About Their Children
The life of Pleasant, by whom I descend, is detailed in a separate posting.
Considering the age difference between George and Delilah, I find the repetition of the older woman/younger man pattern in the life of Eula Ruth intriguing.
Another facet to reconsider is the choice of Hodson or Hodgin spellings among George and Delilah’s descendants. At least one previous genealogist has reported that the Hodson form prevailed among the lines descending from George’s grandfather. What we see here, however, challenges that observation.
Crucial Points for Further Research
The overwhelming question in this generation requires clarification of Delilah’s ancestry. First, the Hunt and Rayle lines require untangling. Which one is she, and how does that relate to the others?
Second is the matter of the Britton surname.
Then there is the matter of Absolom Hodson’s date of birth. Was he from a previous marriage? Was he illegitimate? If so, was George the father?
The date of Delilah’s birth itself appears evasive.